River Dell Varsity Girls Basketball Team puts forth a valiant effort in a loss to Old Tappan in the Joe Poli Holiday Tournament


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Girls Basketball Team(3-3) faced off against Old Tappan(5-0) in the semifinals of the Joe Poli Holiday Tournament at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, New Jersey.

River Dell was coming off an incredible 40-33 come-from-behind victory against Holy Angels. Senior Ari Rodriguez and Junior Sofia Sanchez paced the Golden Hawks with 11 points.

Ari Rodriguez picked up where she left off, hitting shots from behind the arc. Rodriguez buried two trifectas to put River Dell up 6-5 against the Golden Knights in the first quarter. However, Old Tappan ended the period outscoring the Golden Hawks 5-2 rest of the period to take a 10-8 lead.

Ari Rodriguez canned her third triple of the game in the second quarter as River Dell went back in front 11-10. The Golden Knights responded with a 6-0 spurt to reclaim the advantage.

The Golden Hawks, undeterred by the run, answered back by knocking down shots from the free throw line. Senior Lizzy Puentes was in the zone draining four shots as River Dell closed the deficit to 16-15. By halftime, Old Tappan held onto a slim 18-16 lead.

After injuring her ankle late in the second quarter against Holy Angels, Golden Hawks senior Isabella Gilmour quickly recovered and displayed her speed on a fast break to tie the game up at 18-18 in the third quarter.

When the Golden Knights briefly led 20-18, Gilmour gave River Dell a spark on another nifty lay-up. Once again, Old Tappan ignited a rebuttal with an 8-0 run in the last five minutes of the period.

"Bella(Isabella Gilmour) can be electric, and she can do things you can't coach and has a knack for getting to the rim," River Dell Head Coach Lindsay Steffner explained. "She's got great body control and goes in there and can twist her body to the ball to the rim." She's getting hit a lot more than what's called.

River Dell's offense hit the skids into the fourth quarter as the Golden Knights expanded the margin into double digits at 31-20. Golden Hawks senior Lily Crowder ended the drought by sinking a foul shot with less than six minutes left.

When it appeared Old Tappan was on the verge of breaking the wide-open game, River Dell refused to throw in the white towel. Isabella Gilmour and Lilly Crowdy could convert lay-ups as the Golden Hawks closed to within 33-27 with a minute and a half remaining.

That would be the closest River Dell would get the rest of the way, as the outside shots would not fall through. The Golden Knights hit four free throws to hold on for the 37-27 win.

"Defensively, we played the best game all season," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner described. "We didn't have many possessions where we could say to have that possession back." Offensively we still needed that one key play. It's a two-possession game late and could have been anyone's game.

"We have an excellent team and talked about our strengths." "We're a scary team if we put it all together and are in the process of that right now." We have a lot of tremendous players with different strengths trying to piece it together.

The Golden Hawks return to the hardwood court on Friday, December 30th, when they square off against Cresskill(4-1) in the third-place game with tip-off set for 1:30 p.m.

"They have a well-balanced team and shoot the ball very well from the outside and have a big presence inside," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner noted. "They had a nice win over Pascack Valley and coming on as a stronger small school and a lot of talent on their team." It will be a good match for us, playing the last game of the year, and next week we will start league play.

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